We Who Continue To Be..

“Burhan?” My cousin asked me. “No,” I said, even as I had no idea who the Mujahideen engaged in an encounter with the Indian forces in Kokernag on the evening of 8th July were. Yes, the path he had chosen shouldn’t have made the news come as something unexpected. Victory or martyrdom. Martyrdom as victory. As freedom. But it just couldn’t be Burhan. The Commander. That boyish smile. Words too wise for that age. A path so blessed. In some time, photos started pouring in. It was him. Shaheed, In’sha Allah.

Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.(Al Quran, 2:156)

In the land of our occupier, alone as other fellow countrymen had gone home for vacations, I felt suffocated. After what felt like an eternity, I was dialing a friend’s number, with no idea of what I was going to say. She told me it was raining in Kashmir. I longed to be home. And then it was raining tears. We screamed. And cried. In unison. No other word was spoken.

The next day, Burhan’s funeral was all the answers people seek when they ask what Kashmiris want. A sea of people. Defying a curfew. Screaming. Singing. In chorus. Azaadi. Burhan waali Azaadi. Each day followed with news of death from home. It did not matter that I was looking at it from a distance. The suffering was mine. The stones were mine. The resistance was mine. Ours. Everywhere was a front-line. Homes. Streets. Psyches. It was no unrest. It was resistance battling occupation yet again, like it does in a hundred ways each day.

The occupation gifted us ‘blind eyes’ too as it presided over ‘the world’s first mass blinding’, only highlighting its’ own blindness in the process. I went to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. 10-year old Asif, hit by pellets in his eyes, was being consoled by two teenagers, both also under treatment for pellet injuries to eyes, as he writhed in pain. India, there, in that moment, I saw your defeat! In that togetherness!I saw 14-year old Insha at the Trauma Center of AIIMS. She asked for her father to sit by her side, asked him when he would get beautiful hijabs for her. I could not talk. I only cried as her mother did. India, there, in her prayers and tears, I saw your defeat! When I met Insha again after some days, she said she wanted to go out of the ward for a while for some fresh air. Outside, she laughed. (The air in Delhi is just too fresh!) India, there again, I saw your defeat. In that laughter.

In September, I went home. There was graffiti, new ones in addition to Hum Kya Chahte? Azaadi and Go India Go Back. Many places were Burhan Chowk. Burhan is still alive adorned some walls. Out on the streets, everyone was Burhan. And he lived. Indeed.

And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not. (Al Quran, 2:154)

After five months of the mass uprising, we are being told we wasted time, and lives. That Freedom’s terrible thirst had died down. That all we did was to count the dead, and the maimed. That we washed our own blood off the streets, spilled for nothing. That our economy suffered. That we gained nothing-a narrative the Indian State likes to propagate, just as it calls our mass movement for Right to Self Determination as secessionist tendencies of certain misguided people sponsored by Pakistan. Haven’t we demonstrated again and again that this is a war we are out to fight till victory?

We are the ones hit by pellets; but everyone else is blind, or willfully so. Blind to see what we are out for. The stones in the streets. The slogans reverberating from all sides. A Mujahid’s funeral. People trying to break cordon without caring for their lives when encounters break out so the rebels can escape. Any protest for bijli and paani turning into screams and songs of Azadi.

‘These are our birth songs. Our death songs. Our wedding songs. Our funeral songs. Our lullabies. Our mourning. Our celebration. Our screams. Our silence. Our malady. Our panacea. Our unwritten history. Our militant memory.’

We aren’t the ones who have lost. India has, with all its military might and packages of development for Kashmir. India loses each day in Kashmir. To people’s defiance and resistance. We who have defeated fear, we who are writing our story in blood, we who ‘sow hope’, we who ‘continue to be’1 in the face of a brutal military occupation, shall not beg for you to put an end to AFSPA and PSA. And pellets and bullets. We don’t ask for secession. We never were with you. We will be fighting till the last Indian soldier leaves Kashmir. To the end of occupation, as we reclaim our spaces and take what is rightfully ours.


Burhan waali Azaadi

Shuhada ke sadqe Azaadi


[1] Borrowed from Mahmoud Darwish’s State of Siege, translated by Ramsis Amun